Now we enter the doorway of the dark, step across the threshold of the year into the dreaming time, the time of release and letting go, the time of journeying to the underworld.
In spiritual and community traditions across the globe, this is the season of remembering, of bringing to mind the ones we have loved who are no longer with us. It is a time to hold to our griefs close to our hearts, and to release them to the winds, like leaves. Some say that these are the days when the veil between worlds is thin, when our connection to those we’ve loved and lost may we stronger, more real.
Yesterday in my church, this took the form of a ritual of memory and grief. We came together and we spoke of loss, and we remembered together. We lit candles and we heard story and we sang.
For the past couple weeks, the robins having been settling in at the dusk each evening here in the hollow. There’s a wild chattering in the treetops, and the wingfolk draw a complex web of lines across the hollow, sailing short distances from tree to tree, tree to tree. It’s like a playground full of excitable children.
What would our webs look like, were they all made visible? Connecting point to connecting point–what lines are drawn between ourselves and those who have gone before, between ourselves and others in the world today?
I draw a line between myself and my first immigrant ancestors, the Weavers leaving persecution in Germany and settling on farms in the Weaverland Valley, invited to grow crops and flourish in this good soil, the Schlabachs making a similar move to Ohio’s fertile plains. What did they know of the ones who had farmed the land before them?
I draw a line between myself and the Water Protectors on the Dakota plains, from the Susquehanna, river of my heart, to the Missouri, whose waters are endangered by the black oil snake that approaches nearer with every passing day. I draw the line to their ancestors, the First People on these lands. This line travels through broken treaties, through colonial suppression, through Wounded Knee, through Little Big Horn. Their work today looks oh-so-frighteningly similar.
What does it mean to come from a persecuted people? To identify as the descendant of those who were forced to leave their homeland in search of safety? That is the story I live by.
What does it mean that those very travelers, those refugee wanderers seeking safety and freedom to baptize as they believed–what does it mean that they settled land where others had lived and hunted and wandered? Did they have words or concepts to explain Manifest Destiny, Doctrine of Discovery?
Today as I stand on this threshold of the season’s darkness, I will remember back before my memory. I will hold the connection between myself and those hopeful refugees from the pain and trial of the old world to the new. I will not excuse or explain away their settlement of fertile valleys, their claim of land which had once been free. I will neither take one the shame nor dismiss it. I am their distant daughter, as the ones who stand for Water in the Dakotas are the distant children of those who moved across these lands, belonging to the land rather than claiming it for themselves. Today we draw new lines. We make new patterns, new webs firmly anchored to the old ones. We wing our way into the dusk, like those robins, connecting point to point, idea to idea, memory to memory, grief to grief, until we have a web that will hold us as we move into the season that approaches.
1. Tears of joy and relief
2. Tears of sorrow and release
3. How the trees are letting go
4. Circles and webs of caring
5. Community rituals
May we walk in Beauty!